Hoerig trial set for April

Defense requests gag order on case

WARREN — Claudia Hoerig eluded prosecution on murder charges for almost 11 years. Now she is getting a lesson on how swift the Ohio court system could act on her case.

Hoerig appeared Tuesday morning in the Trumbull County Common Pleas courtroom of Judge Andrew D. Logan, who set her trial for April 16, in agreement with a motion by prosecutors.

The Brazilian-born woman, 53, charged with a host of felonies connected to the March 2007 slaying of her husband, Maj. Karl Hoerig of Newton Falls, was brought back to Trumbull County last month after the president of Brazil signed off on her extradition order. Dressed in orange coveralls, the woman walked briskly from a rear courtroom doorway that led to a stairwell straight to the podium before the judge. During the five-minute hearing, Hoerig stared straight ahead at Logan, rarely turning to her attorneys.

The courtroom was less crowded Tuesday than on Jan. 19, when Hoerig was arraigned some three days after her return. In the courtroom, however, were several dozen members of Karl Hoerig’s family, including his mother, father and brother. Also there was a camerawoman for CBS’ “48 Hours” which chronicled the Hoerig case in recent months through two hourlong episodes featuring Karl’s brother, Paul Hoerig.

Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins told the family members outside the courtroom after the hearing that they should be prepared for an April 16 trial, but said the defense could waive its right for a speedy trial. In Ohio, defendants have a right to be tried within 90 days of their incarceration, unless they waive that right.

After the hearing, public defender Matthew Pentz filed a memorandum with the court asking Logan to issue a gag order in the case. If approved by the judge, this move would silence any court officers from commenting to the media about the case to help ensure a fair trial.

“Counsel for the state has made at least one extrajudicial statement to the media since she (Hoerig) appeared in this case,” Pentz wrote. “The defendant has not waived a jury trial and it is presumed will not, therefore this matter will be determined by a jury pool consisting of voters from Trumbull County.”

In his motion, Pentz noted the state had requested and received a gag order in its recent successful prosecution of Howland resident Nassar Hamad, who was charged with capital murder in the February 2017 shooting deaths of two people outside his home. Hamad was found guilty by a Trumbull County jury late last year and received a 30-year-to-life sentence after jurors were sequestered overnight in a downtown Warren hotel while deliberating the death penalty phase.

Unlike the Hamad case, however, Hoerig does not face a possible death penalty if she is found guilty of aggravated murder.

When contacted by the Tribune Chronicle, Pentz said the evidence against his client is “voluminous,” but would not comment further.

The next pretrial in the case is set Feb. 20.